Iran after the presidential election
Article added on July 30, 2009
In the Shia tradition, it is the
custom to hold a memorial service 40 days after a person's death. That's
what happening in Teheran today in honor of Neda Agha-Soltan, the peaceful
protester whose death was captured on video and seen around the world on TV
and on the internet. Therefore, she became the symbol of resistance against
the electoral fraud and the revolutionary regime. The Iranian mourners were
defying the regime's order not to rally publicly. According to several news
services, at least some 2000 people gathered at Tehran's Grand Mosala. As
the protest some 40 days ago, it reminds me of the protesters in East
Germany's streets in 1989 who shouted:
“We are the people”. The presidential candidate Moussavi was said to be part of
the memorial. The police violently dispersed the mourners.
The fraudulent presidential election in Iran
of June 12, 2009 may well change the regime in the longer run. Although the
recent rift between the Supreme (religious) Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the vice-president appointed by
Ahamadinejad looks like a tactical move to divert attention from the
electoral fraud, it is also the expression of genuine discontent of people
within the regime with their president.
To talk about
“elections” in Iran does not make sense. They were neither free nor fair. The
regime preselected four candidates. The real opposition is in exile or was
barred from participation in the 2009 presidential election. The four
candidates on the ballots were all supporters of the late Ayatollah
Khomeini. They only differ in their interpretation of his legacy. It is
largely a power struggle within the regime. However, many of the protesters
who flocked to the streets after the cooked-up election results were
presented had more in mind: regime change.
Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are able to stay in power because they still have
the monopoly of power. They cracked down demonstrations, jailed protesters,
closed newspapers, harassed, tortured and imprisoned critics, but they
cannot kill large numbers of citizens. At least over two dozen people were
killed in the post-election protest. The more people die, the more the
regime loses its reputation, even among important parts of its own
supporters. The crackdown on protesters with numerous casualties as well as
hundreds of imprisoned and tortured people will turn the electoral result
into a Pyrrhic victory. The 2009 presidential election in Iran is an
eye-opener for Iranian citizens as well as for foreign observers.
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Unfortunately, the so-called
“opposition” is just the other face of Iran's current regime. The Islamist
regime is not monolithic. But Mir Hossein Moussavi is a former prime
minister, an office abolished since then. He is considered to be a man of
integrity, quite an exception in a country in which many Ayatollahs and
other religious leaders enriched themselves thanks to their position within
the state. Moussavi's key ally, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is not
just a religious leader and former president of Iran (from 1989 to 1997), he
is also considered Iran's richest man. He and his family control many
companies. Rafsanjani was allegedly implicated in the Iran-Contra affair and
profited from it. He owns properties throughout Iran, has stakes in the
oil and gas industry, is a quasi-monopolist in the pistachio commerce,
controls a network of private universities, his oldest son built Teheran's
underground, other son's control an airline, important oil and gas companies
as well as farms. His daughters are in the real estate business, etc. No
wonder the Rafsanjani-clan is highly unpopular with voters. They control too
Incidentally, Moussavi is no saint either. He was in office during the
Iran-Iraq war, during which the West largely supported a certain Saddam
Hussein, who perpetrated poisonous gas attacks against the Iraqi Kurds and
Iranians. Moussavi was responsible for torturing thousands and jailing tens
of thousands of regime critics. Are Moussavi and Rafsanjani now true
“reformers”? That remains unclear. One thing is sure, they are more like
Gorbachev who wanted to
“reform” the unreformable Soviet Union.
A true reformer is not in sight yet. Mohsen Mirdamadi, the general secretary
of the oppositional Islamic Iranian Participation Front was barred from the
presidential election and was arrested in June 2009. Even this opposition
and reform party leader has close ties to the Iranian Revolution of 1979
because he was one of the leaders in the Iran Hostage Crisis.
The Western embargo will not bring down the regime, but it has hampered its
economic viability, notably in the oil and gas industry, which lacks
productivity. The inflation rate in Iran is around 30% and the unemployment
rate, officially at 10%, is said to be around 20%. No wonder many Iranians,
especially young students, see no future for them under the corrupt and
incompetent Mullah regime.
At the beginning of July, in my
French article, I quoted Bahman Nirumand, an Iranian critic of the
Mullah regime living in German, who rightly pointed out that the term
“Islamic Republic” is a contradiction in itself. Either Iran is a theocracy in
which the revolutionary leader commands or it is a republic, which executes
the will of its citizens. It is obvious that an Islamic theocracy follows
the Koran (Quran), whereas a republic respects the democratic institutions
In Iran, the regime violates the fundaments of any democracy, including the
freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, free and fair elections. Some
ten days ago, the Iranian news agency Isna quoted Ayatollah Mohammed Jasdi,
a member of the Assembly of Experts, which elects the Supreme Leader, saying
that the Iranian government is legitimized by God and not by the people,
something former president and Moussavi supporter Ayatollah Ali Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani allegedly
“ignored” in his long awaited Friday prayer critical of the regime's handling of
the election and the after-election protests.
Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and their ultraconservative ally Mesbah Yazdi still
have the upper hand in the Iranian power struggle, notably with the help of
paramilitary thugs. At least in Teheran, a lot of people woke up and
realized that they cannot be ignored by the regime if they stand together.
The BBC news service in Farsi reaches a lot of Iranians looking for reliable
information. The internet as another invaluable source of news which cannot
With the brutal crackdown after the fraudulent 2009 presidential election,
the Islamist regime in Iran has planted the seeds which eventually will
bring it down - sooner or later. You cannot fool all the people all the
time. In June, the protesters showed signs and shouted: Where's my vote?
Later, many parents had to ask themselves where are our children? Among the
protesters who died in jail after being tortured is Mohsen Rouhalamini, the
son of a prominent conservative and adviser to presidential candidate Mohsen
Rezai. This crisis is far from over. It will have long lasting effects. The
factions of all four presidential candidates cannot find a common ground
anymore. The regime is in crisis.
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